Speak like a true Venezuelan!
¿Qué más mi pana? Venezuelans have an extensive repertoire of greetings, which can become a little confusing to learners of Spanish. But Venezuelan Spanish is colorful and exciting so it’s worth learning these phrases. After all, first impressions last. Greet someone correctly and they will remember you. It may sound overwhelming and it can be hard to wrap your head around this immediately, but you don’t have to worry: in this post you are about to learn the words that Venezuelans use the most when referring to each other, as well as how and when to use them.
First, you must know that Venezuelans are very passionate people, and that translates into a very rich and diverse Spanish dialect. This dialect gives people the freedom to express themselves differently in various situations. Learning how to refer to someone is one of the most important things you must know in order to integrate fully into Venezuelan culture. But more importantly, it helps avoid standing out as a guiri or a musiú (how Venezuelans refer to foreigners).
As with all situations, think carefully about your word choice. The same word that you use with a specific friend, may be considered as an insult if you use it to refer to someone else. Depending on the relationship between two people, their age difference and even the specific context, Venezuelans may use one word or another. This guide aims to teach you how to avoid that ambiguity and sound like a true Venezuelan.
And now, without further ado, let’s get you started!
“-I’m not your friend, buddy
-I’m not your buddy, pal
-I’m not your pal, guy”
Common Formal words
Traveling or living in another country means being exposed to its culture and its people. Sooner or later you will need to communicate and interact with them (yep, your smartphone can’t do everything). You will encounter different kinds of people in diverse circumstances: friends, teachers, kids, cashiers, the owner of the bakery where you usually go, etc. Naturally, you will need to know how to refer to each one of these people.
Here’s a list of the basics to use with people you do not know. These are words you should use in a more formal context. Let’s call it the reference survival list, starting off with two common words you are probably already familiar with.
- Señor (male) / señora (female) [very frequent]: you will use this word to refer mostly to adult people you don’t know. (Translation: sir/madam)
- Señorita (just female) [frequent]: this is usually used to refer to young women. (Translation: young lady). You are likely to know this word thanks to the song “Señorita” by Shawn Mendez.
- Caballero (male) / dama (female) [normal]: a more formal way of saying señor/señora. It is what you usually find written in the toilets to indicate gender. (Translation: gentlemen/lady). You may also have heard the famous expression “Damas y caballeros…!” which translates into “Ladies and gentlemen…!”
- Joven (male and female) [frequent]: it is often used by adults when referring to a young person. (Translation: young man or youth).
- Niño (male) / niña (female) [very frequent]: it is used to refer to kids. (Translation: kid)
Common Informal words
In this section, you will be one step closer to sounding like a real Venezuelan. From this point on, you will have to analyze the situation and make sure you avoid using these words with your teacher or your boss, for example. Keep these forms for your friends or acquaintances.
- Chamo/chama [very frequent]: this is very often used between friends. Probably the most used one. (Translation: lad/buddy)
- Chamito/chamita [frequent]: this is a variation of chamo/a which is used to refer to kids in an informal context. (Translation: kid)
- Pana (male and female) [very frequent]: this is also used between friends, very close to chamo. (Translation: homeboy/pal/friend)
- Hermano or hermanito (just male) [frequent]. (Translation: brother [bro])
- Broder (male) [frequent]: this is the Spanglish (Spanish/English) version of brother. (Translation: bro)
- Chico/chica [common, very frequently used]: this is a neutral form to refer to a young person you don’t know. (Translation: guy/girl)
- Don/Doña [frequent]: these forms are used in Venezuela to refer to elders (Translation: in other Spanish countries it would translate into Mr. and Miss)
- Muchacho/muchacha [frequent]: it is used to refer to teenagers in an informal way. (Translation: young boy/young girl)
- Compadre/comadre [rarely used]. (Translation: buddy/pal)
Venezuelan Slang Words Used When Referring To Someone
Let’s dive into Venezuelan slang culture. We are going to teach you 9 slang words used to refer to a person or group of people. But be careful, since this can be a double-edged sword: these words may make you look cool and like a great connoisseur of Venezuelan language slang. But depending on the context and the way you use these words, they can also be perceived as offensive. We have highlighted words which can be offensive if you use them to refer to someone while that person is present.
- Mano/mana [very frequent]: it is used when talking to close friends and it can also be an expression revealing surprise. It is an abbreviated form of saying “hermano/hermana”. (Translation: pal/bro)
- Jevita (just female) [normal]. (Translation: slang word for girlfriend)
- Compinche or compañero (just male) [rare]. (Translation: pal/buddy)
- Guachimán [normal]: it comes from the English word watchman. (Translation: watchman or guard)
- Marico/marica [very frequent]: this is very often used between close friends but be careful, it is also an insult. It literally means “fag”, but in Venezuela is very frequently used between friends. Do not say this word to a person unless you know how to read the situation perfectly: not everyone likes this one. (Translation: literally fag, but it is used as “bro”)
- Carajito/carajita [very frequent]: it is used to refer to kids. Mostly pejorative. (Translation: pipsqueak/kid).
- Culito (male or female)[normal]: Someone who is more than a friend but not your couple. You know what we mean. (Translation: literally “little ass”, but it means friends with benefits).
- Tipo/tipa [very frequent]: it is used to refer to a guy or a girl, but it can be pejorative. (Translation: dude/chick).
- Catire/catira [very common]: someone who has blond hair and white skin. (Translation: blonde/blond).
Let’s see some examples in different contexts!
|Spanish Version Formal||English Version Formal|
|Hombre adulto: Hola señorita, ¿cómo está? |
Mujer joven: Muy bien señor, ¿y usted
Hombre adulto: Perfectamente, vine a traer a mi niño a la consulta con el doctor Torres.
Mujer joven: Ok señor, tomen asiento, le avisaré al doctor.
|Adult man: Hello miss, how are you? |
Young lady: I am fine sir, and you?
Adult man: I’m doing alright, I brought my kid to see doctor Torres.
Young lady: Alright sir, please have a seat, I will call the doctor
|Spanish Version Informal||English Version Informal|
|Amiga 1: Hola chama, pensé que no vendrías porque ayer te sentías mal. |
Amiga 2: Ay amiga dormí muy mal, pero no me quería perder el examen.
Amiga 1: Menos mal chama, porque la semana pasada un pana no vino al quiz porque se enfermó, y el profesor no se lo quiso hacer de nuevo.
Amiga 2: Que bueno que vine, ¡me salvé!.
|Friend 1: Hey mate, I thought that you were not coming because you were feeling sick yesterday.|
Friend 2: Yeah mate, but I didn’t want to miss the test
Friend 1: It’s a good thing you came mate, because last week one of my buddies didn’t come to the quiz because he was sick, and our teacher didn’t allow him to retake it.
Friend 2: I’m glad I came then!
Now we shall put what we have learnt into practice. Have a look at the following situations and choose 1 correct answer for each one of them. You can check the answers at the bottom of this page.
A) At a university, one professor asks the time to a female student he doesn’t know.
- Disculpa joven, ¿me puedes decir la hora por favor?
- Disculpa chama, ¿me puedes decir la hora por favor?
- Disculpa jevita, ¿me puedes decir la hora por favor?
B) Carlos runs into his classmate when he’s exiting the bakery.
- Hola caballero, tenía tiempo sin verte.
- Chamo, tenía tiempo sin verte.
- Joven, tenía tiempo sin verte.
C) A woman walks into a bank and asks the manager until which hour the bank is working.
- ¿Cómo está señor? Quisiera saber a qué hora cierran el banco.
- ¿Cómo estás hermano? Quisiera saber a qué hora cierran el banco.
- ¿Cómo estás mano? quisiera saber a qué hora cierran el banco.
D) In the supermarket, a young woman asks a question to another young woman.
- Chica disculpa, ¿sabes dónde queda la sección de vegetales?
- Dama disculpa, ¿sabes dónde queda la sección de vegetales?
- Jevita disculpa, ¿sabes dónde queda la sección de vegetales?
E) One young boy is talking to another one from the same neighborhood.
- Ok carajito, yo te aviso lo que me diga mi hermano.
- Ok caballero, yo te aviso lo que me diga mi hermano.
- Ok pana, yo te aviso lo que me diga mi hermano.
Answers: (A-1; B-2; C-1; D-1; E.1)
We hope you enjoyed your journey across the formal and informal language of Venezuela. This catalogue of reference words is handy in formal situations like your workplace or college, and informal situations like when you are having a few drinks with your panas. It is in the idioms and the slang words people say that shows the diversity and wealth of the Spanish language. This list will surely become handy if you are planning to learn the Spanish language in Venezuela or if you just want to impress your Venezuelan friend. Make sure to read the situation and use the correct form for each one of them. It will take time, practice and patience but we assure you that the results will be very rewarding.